February 19, 2018, Monday
“So, do I think that the Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China? Yes, definitely, if they go in the direction which is obvious from all what they are doing in recent years and months.” —Chinese Cardinal Joseph Zen, 86, Emeritus Archbishop of Hong Kong, at the end of a Facebook post on January 29, 2018, almost one month ago. Zen had flown to Rome in early January to request a meeting with Pope Francis, which he was granted. Speaking directly to the Pope, Zen protested a rumored Vatican decision to allow the Chinese government to choose who would be consecrated as Catholic bishops in China, a decision many expect will be announced in March or April
“With reference to widespread news on a presumed difference of thought and action between the Holy Father and his collaborators in the Roman Curia on issues relating to China, I am able to state the following:
‘The Pope is in constant contact with his collaborators, in particular in the Secretariat of State, on Chinese issues, and is informed by them faithfully and in detail on the situation of the Catholic Church in China and on the steps in the dialogue in progress between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China, which he follows with special attention. It is therefore surprising and regrettable that the contrary is affirmed by people in the Church, thus fostering confusion and controversy.'” —Director of the Vatican Press Office Greg Burke, an American, in a prepared statement on January 30 in response to Cardinal Zen’s suggestion that the Pope had not been fully informed by his diplomats about the implications of a decision to allow the Chinese government to have more control over the selection of Chinese Catholic bishops (link)
“Those who best realize the social doctrine of the Church at this time are the Chinese. They seek the common good, subordinating all things to the general good.” —Argentine Archbishop Marcel Sanchez Sorondo, 75, head of the Vatican’s Academy for Social Sciences and a personal friend of Pope Francis, speaking with the Italian newspaper La Stampa, on February 2, following a visit to China
“Whether Sorondo understands it or not — and I would guess he doesn’t have a clue — there’s only one reason why the Chinese Party-State wants an agreement with the Vatican at all. For control… Most of all, it wants to force the Underground Church out into the open. There its heroic bishops will give way to state lackeys. Its members more effectively watched. Its preaching stopped. That the Vatican is contemplating cooperating with this scheme is mystifying.” —Steven Mosher, President of the Population Research Institute, in a web essay published by TheStream.com on February 6, in response to Sanchez Sorondo’s comments (link) Mosher is an internationally recognized authority on China and population issues. In 1979, he was the first American social scientist to visit mainland China. He was invited there by the Chinese government, where he had access to government documents and actually witnessed women being forced to have abortions under the new “one-child policy.” Mr. Mosher was a pro-choice atheist at the time, but witnessing these traumatic abortions led him to reconsider his convictions and to eventually become a practicing, pro-life Roman Catholic
“The Vatican knows China is good for business. As a spiritual enterprise, organised religion is all about numbers and, with 1.37 billion souls to be saved on the mainland, it’s no surprise relations with Beijing are warming.” —Alex Lo, article in the South China Morning Post (already tomorrow, February 20, in China) (link)
“There is one place where we are seeing conversions: in the adoration chapels. We have actually been quite surprised. Quite a few young people in Budapest are spending time in our adoration chapels.” —Cardinal Peter Erdo, 65, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary, in a private conversation with me in New York City two weeks ago
A few months ago, I was standing by La Vittoria restaurant on the via delle Fornaci in Rome following a dinner with friends. It was a quiet, warm summer evening, about 10 p.m., already dark.
An Italian man whom I knew came walking briskly down the street. He is an internationally respected writer on geopolitical affairs. I stopped him, greeted him, and asked him what he was working on at the moment.
“China!” he said.
His hair was disheveled and standing almost on end in different places.
“China?” I said.
“Yes! The Pope and his advisors would like to make a breakthrough in China! It’s their #1 priority. Nothing else is even remotely as important to them.”
“Ah!” I replied, mentally rifling though a series of other matters of concern in mid-2017: the Church’s liturgy, the dubia… the bloody conflicts in Libya and Syria and the consequent massive immigration into Europe… the Vatican’s opaque finances… the tragic conflict in Ukraine… the post-Christian West’s seemingly Gnostic longing for, and embrace of, what will transcend man and perhaps dominate man, the “transhuman,” the “superhuman”…
“Ok,” I said. “Interesting. So, what is the vision?”
“Simple!” my friend replied. “The people of China, so hard-working, so oriented toward becoming successful, in their hundreds of millions, are nevertheless, of course, souls, souls with a hunger for the divine, for the eternal, for God…”
He stopped and pointed toward the Apostolic Palace in the distance, above the colonnade.
“And that is something about which the Church…” (he shook his finger at the Vatican palaces) “knows very much, for two millennia now. And the Chinese government, despite its best efforts, does not, and cannot, fully understand this hunger.
“And so we have these two great powers, one secular, one spiritual. And the Pope is persuaded that if the Chinese government gives the Church an opening to function in China, something extraordinary will happen.”
“Like what?” I asked.
“Mass conversions,” the excited writer said to me. “By the millions. When the Church presents Jesus Christ to the Chinese people, when the sacraments are celebrated in churches in every part of the country, the people will respond because they are spiritually thirsty, spiritually starving. What the Church offers has been systematically excluded from every aspect of Chinese life, which was traditionally rooted in a reverent Confucianism, which respected elders and nature’s laws. All that was uprooted in the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. But the desire for something more remains, for it is a human desire, intrinsic to our nature. And for this reason, the Pope thinks the Chinese people will be fascinated by the Church and the Christian message, and ultimately, by Jesus Christ. And he believes there may well be, if there is an opening, perhaps 100 million Catholics in China in 10 years, perhaps 200 million in 20 years. Making China the largest Catholic country by number of believers in the world. And that would have extraordinary consequences.”
“But the Chinese government…” I said. “Would the government ever allow such a thing?”
“Good question,” he said. “No one knows the answer. But the bet is that the situation will become uncontrollable. The longing for the faith, for the transcendant, will become a cultural phenomenon, an explosion of spiritual force. And the government will be unable to take repressive measures because the longing will be too widespread, and open repression too negative for the country’s global image. So the conversions will come, and they will be massive.”
And he summed up: “But one thing is quite clear: this Pope is the first ‘post-Western’ Pope. He sees far beyond the old boundaries of what we called Christendom.”
We talked a while longer, and then parted. But I did not forget the conversation.
(Above, children reach out to touch Pope Francis during an audience at the Vatican. He is flanked by his security men. In Rome, it is said that Francis would like to make a visit to China.)
A few weeks ago, there began to be reports that the Vatican is on the eve of an historic accord with the Chinese government regulating the choice of bishops for the Catholic Church in China.
According to an article yesterday, February 18, in Italy’s Corriere della Sera daily, by Massimo Franco and Paolo Salom, the Pope has now, in fact, already given his approval in principle to the agreement. (link)
The Vatican’s goal is for the Catholic Church to be accepted by China as a “foreign religion” that is “no longer hostile” to Communist China, the writers say.
And they cite a Vatican official telling them: “For our part, the decision has been taken: after the end of March, any day will be a good day to sign the accord with the Chinese government on the procedure for the naming of Catholic bishops.”
The official said there remain some “unknowns,” including who, from China’s side, will sign the accord, where the signing will take place, and whether there might be some last-minute surprises.
But otherwise, according to this official, it is a “done deal.”
Of course, Taiwan is looking on nervously, since it has official diplomatic relations with the Vatican, and does not want to lose them. But if the Chinese agree on this accord with the Vatican, it might not be long before China might try to have the Vatican abandon its relations with Taiwan and establish them with China. This would be a diplomatic coup for China, and a severe blow to Taiwan.
Also, American analysts seem to be watching developments closely at the request of the US government.
The question they are attempting to answer is: Why is the Vatican moving now so boldly to reach an agreement with China?
The answer the US analysts are reaching, the Corriere report says, has two parts. First, the Vatican wants to defend the Catholic minority in China through legalizing the Church. Second, the Vatican, by moving very quickly right now, hopes to head off a schism between the government-approved “Patriotic Church” and the underground Church loyal to Rome, which has been persecuted by the Communist regime.
In fact, Taiwan is so worried about what is happening that it recently sent a five-member delegation to Rome to meet Francis and plead with him to keep their country in mind. But the Pope did not receive the five; they met instead with Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher (photo), 64, the Vatican’s “foreign minister.” (Chinese sources say the United States was indirecly behind the mission of the five Taiwanese, the two journalists say.)
The two journalists note — and this is the point — that the diplomacy guided by the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin (photo), 63, depended a great deal on the fact that, in China, the Pope was seen as a “post-Western” Pope, not “an agent of a foreign power,” that is, of the United States.
Moreover, the Vatican has assured China, the journalists say, that it does not wish to change the regime, but only to permit its own faithful to live in freedom. Therefore, no interference in political matters, something Beijing fears more than anything else.
“It is a matter of turning a page,” one Roman source told the journalists,. “We no longer want a Church that must remain by definition in opposition to the regime. We must enter into a prgmatic dialogue, transcending the ideology of the Cold War and of conflict.”
And the journalists add that the “mantra” of the Vatican diplomacy is as follows: “We do realize it is a bad accord, because the Chinese have a knife up their sleeve, and every time we Catholics grab it, we bleed. But Beijing does accept that the Church of Rome may enter into religious questions, something never accepted before. And more, now the door is ajar. Tomorrow it could shut tight and any dialogue whatsoever could become difficult. Better a bad accord than no accord.”
In fact, the Vatican diplomats fear that, following China’s last Party Congress, where some “hard-line” views were expressed, the situation may soon get worse, not better.
So, in Rome, during March, probably after the closing in China of the annual session of the National Assembly, Vatican officials are awaiting a Chinese delegation to put the final touches on the agreement. The Chinese deputy foreign minister is expected to come (the responsible for the European section) as the counterpart to Monsignor Antoine Camilleri (photo), 52, who is in charge of the negotiations, together with Gallagher and another veteran of China-Vatican negotiations, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli. Then, in China, the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, is said to be ready to approve the agreement.
So, in conclusion, in order to re-establish contact with the largest Asian country following the complete break which occurred in 1951 — 67 years ago now — the Pope from Argentina seems ready to re-open this front, quite aware that there will be criticism from his adversaries both within and without the Church. But it is time, say the diplomats: “If we delay, in the Communict Party, the resistance could re-emerge, and this accord set aside.”
So it does now seem that, barring some unexpected development, such an accord will be signed in March of April.
Is it a good agreement? Or a bad one, even a terrible one, a “sell-out” of the Catholic Church in China, as Cardinal Zen has described it? And does it even matter, if a bad agreement is better than no agreement, as the Vatican diplomat argued?
It is impossible to say at this point, though many are exercising their right to comment — including Cardinal Zen himself.
Below, I offer four articles which form a sort of “Dossier” that may help to provide a context for the meaning and likely consequences of this decision.
For my part, I express a hope: that the people of China, inheritors of a great culture, finding themselves now again at a turning point, may find a good path, one with a sense of the dignity of the human person, one, indeed, illumined by the transcendant Logos, the meaning and so also the hope of the world.
Of course, I have a similar hope for my own country and culture, this culture which formed me, this West-once-called-Christendom — and, indeed, a similar hope for the Vatican, as well…
And I suggest that the establishment of adoration chapels in China, everywhere possible, might help bring about that transformation of hearts and minds that it is bringing about in Budapest, Hungary, and in so many other places around the world…
The first article is by a Chinese writer. He takes a very pragmatic look at the possible accord, and judges it sensible from his perspective of what must be the Vatican’s interest. The article appeared a few minutes ago, and is actually dated February 20, as it is already tomorrow in China.
#1. My Take: The Vatican knows China is good for business
by Alex Lo ([email protected])
As a spiritual enterprise, organised religion is all about numbers and, with 1.37 billion souls to be saved on the mainland, it’s no surprise relations with Beijing are warming
Tuesday, 20 February, 2018, 1:36am
A delegation from Beijing is expected to travel to the Vatican in March to finalise a deal on the appointment of Catholic bishops in mainland China.
Organised religion is in the spiritual business. And like any business, it’s ultimately about numbers.
Now, if you are the chief executive officer, or rather the Pope in Rome, surveying the state of your global Catholic business in terms of customer base, what do you see?
Well, growth trends have been negative across Europe for decades and are likely to be irreversible. How sad, you tell yourself, when not too long ago, the West was still referred to as Christendom.
You see growth in North and South America, but it has been sluggish or is decelerating.
In Oceania, that is, in places such as Australia and New Zealand, the numbers are holding up. But their relatively low populations could never make up a key part of the business. Africa and the Far East? Now that’s where all the real growths is!
For people who may be puzzled by what appears to be a “sudden” rapprochement between China and the Vatican, or if you are just interested in Catholicism as a global institution, I urge you to consult a 2015 study called “Global Catholicism: Trends & Forecasts”, by the Centre for Applied Research in the Apostolate, a research group under Georgetown University in Washington.
Read it like a business report, because it is written like one.
The growth in the Catholic population between 1980 and 2012 was a staggering 238 per cent in Africa, 115 per cent in Asia, but just 6 per cent in Europe.
During the same period, the number of parishes more than doubled in Africa and Asia, but declined by 12 per cent in Europe.
Interestingly, the study argues differences in the fertility rate, rather than immigration or evangelisation, account mostly for the diverging Catholic population trends between the continents.
Given this global picture, China remains the dream market for the Vatican, just like it is for most other big Western businesses: 1.37 billion souls to be saved!
State-run Chinese paper confident Beijing will establish ties with Vatican
But growth on the mainland seems to have peaked in 2005 at 12 million Catholics, according to the Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong, and has since dropped to 10 million.
Like Apple investors who fret at the slightest sign of slowing sales in iPhones on the mainland, Vatican bosses are no doubt worried. Any Western corporation knows if you want to do business in China, you have to make nice with the communist state. The Vatican is ready to bite the bullet.
The second article, from two days ago, is by an old friend, John Zmirak, a brilliant American writer who once taught at Thomas More College in New Hampshire. He expresses concern that the Vatican’s diplomats may be miscalculating, but he takes seriously the argument that something quite important is taking place in this agreement — a possible “alliance” between China and the Vatican.
#2. The Vatican and Communist China: A Surrender or an Alliance?
By John Zmirak
February 17, 2018
Is Pope Francis’ Vatican “surrendering” or “caving in” to Communist China? That’s the language many concerned Catholics are using. Pope Francis’ decision to turn against that nation’s underground church appalled them. So they try to explain it. They point to priestly naiveté. Or goofball hopes for Western-style reforms.
I wonder, though. Francis and his appointees seem driven by something more. Namely by anti-American, illiberal politics. So I think it’s worth considering other words. Such as “strategic alliance.” Does that sound crazy? I wish it were. Read to the end before you decide.
The facts on the ground are clear: We’ve seen 60 years of conflict between the real, underground churches of China and the Communist front groups set up by its government to control them. Now the Vatican has announced that it’s switching sides. Believers, priests and bishops of the Catholic wing of that underground church must stand aside. They must go join the “Patriotic” church which they’ve been fighting for decades.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, who served prison terms at the hands of the Communist government, calls this capitulation. As The Wall Street Journal reported:
“You are telling them, ‘You are stupid for being loyal for so many years. Now surrender,’” Cardinal Zen said in an interview in the Hong Kong seminary he joined seven decades ago… “They are appointing bad people to be the shepherds of the flocks. How can you do that?” he said in the interview, closing his eyes and shaking his fists. “You’re putting wolves before your flock, and they are going to make a massacre.”
A group of concerned Chinese Catholics issued an anguished open letter. It said, in part:
[T]he seven illicitly ordained “bishops” were not appointed by the Pope, and their moral integrity is questionable. They do not have the trust of the faithful, and have never repented publicly. If they were to be recognized as legitimate, the faithful in Greater China would be plunged into confusion and pain, and schism would be created in the Church in China. …
[W]e are deeply worried that the deal would create damages that cannot be remedied. The Communist Party in China, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, has repeatedly destroyed crosses and churches, and the Patriotic Association maintains its heavy-handed control over the Church. Religious persecution has never stopped. Xi has also made it clear that the Party will strengthen its control over religions. So there is no possibility that the Church can enjoy more freedom. In addition, the Communist Party has a long history of breaking promises. We are worried that the agreement would not only fail to guarantee the limited freedom desired by the Church, but also damage the Church’s holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity, and deal a blow to the Church’s moral power. The Church would no longer be able to have the trust of people. …
The Radical Left at the Vatican
The highest authority at the Vatican on science, economics and politics is Archbishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo. If anyone speaks for Pope Francis, he does.
Yet Sorondo ignored all the abuses which Chinese Catholics cited. Like a gullible pilgrim to Moscow in 1936, he spoke of his visit to China in sophomoric, glowing terms. He spouted Party propaganda.
And worse, as China expert and pro-life hero Steven Mosher explained at The Stream, Sorondo lauded the Chinese dictatorship for supposedly avoiding the evils leftist Catholics attribute to U.S. capitalism. He praised China for its environmental stewardship on “climate issues.” He outright said that China comes closer to “Catholic social teaching” than the United States does. Pope Francis did not contradict him.
The cardinal lauded the Chinese dictatorship for supposedly avoiding the evils which leftist Catholics attribute to U.S. capitalism. He praised China for its environmental stewardship on “climate issues.” He outright said that China comes closer to “Catholic social teaching” than the United States does. Pope Francis did not contradict him.
Catholics should take that seriously. Sorondo is one of Francis’s front men on Catholic social teaching. He has told us what he thinks it amounts to.
I’ve been warning for years that leftists were hijacking and distorting Catholic social thought, then trying to give their ideology the veneer of divine authority. Indeed, Sorondo once told a Vatican symposium that Francis’ opinions on climate change were as binding as the Church’s stance on abortion. Francis’ call for massive, centralized control over the world economy by global agencies? That forms part of the “ordinary magisterium,” Sorondo claimed. According to him, Catholics cannot publicly dissent from it without sin (which is absurd).
America as a Dictatorship
In 2013, another Francis protégé, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga explained Pope Francis’ inaugural document Evangelii Gaudium. It slams the free market as wicked and exploitative. Quoting Fidel Castro acolyte Jean Ziegler, Maradiaga denounced the
world dictatorship of finance capital. … The lords of financial capital wield over billions of human beings a power of life and death. Through their investment strategies, their stock market speculations, their alliances, they decide day to day who has the right to live on this planet and who is doomed to die.
In his own words, Maradiaga dismissed systems like America’s. He damned “neoliberal dictatorships that rule democracies.” He warned, “To change the system, it would be necessary to destroy the power of the new feudal lords.”
It’s not surprising that Maradiaga is peddling conspiracy theories. As Alan Dershowitz revealed, back in 2002 the cardinal denied that a clerical sexual abuse crisis even existed. What did? A plot by Jews in the media to strike back at the Vatican. Why? For defending the Palestinians. So let’s revoke Spotlight‘s Oscar, okay? It was really just Zionist agitprop.
The Dangerous Christian Right
The Vatican-supervised Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica tipped its hand in 2016. It published a telling piece by close Francis associate Fr. Antonio Spadaro. In it, Spadaro denounced the Christian right in America. For what? Conspiring with certain rogue Catholic conservatives in a plot to impose a sharia-style theocracy. The proof? We oppose homosexual marriage, abortion and attacks on religious liberty. Spadaro even coughed up the leftist talking point which smears American evangelicals as opponents of civil rights for black people.
Also in 2016, Wikileaks revealed that billionaire leftist, globalist and pro-choice extremist George Soros was funding leftist Catholic groups. One was the South American radical group PICO. Cardinal Maradiaga was the proposed go-between. (Maradiaga has been implicated since then in a major financial scandal involving “dark money” he seems to have collected.)
In 2017, 24 U.S. bishops and Vatican Cardinal Peter Turkson graced a conference sponsored by PICO and other leftist groups. Its final message included a note of support from Pope Francis himself. The group called for radical “resistance” against U.S. laws. And essentially open U.S. borders. It asked bishops to hide illegal aliens from justice.
Rejecting America, Root and Branch
A recent article in The Federalist is must-reading. It points to a campaign among some Catholics to reject the American founding and the liberties it ensures as part of a corrosive “Liberalism.” This atomist philosophy inevitably leads to decisions like Roe v. Wade. So scholars such as Patrick Deneen of Notre Dame warn us. Rejecting it, however, might require Catholics to rethink Vatican II’s embrace of religious freedom for non-Catholic Christians.
Pope Francis just made a deal with a dictatorship that dynamites Christian churches.
Pope Francis has not weighed in on this question. But he regularly uses “neo-liberalism” as a term of abuse for pro-American political and economic policies. And he did just make a deal with a dictatorship that dynamites Christian churches. (Most of them Protestant.) He subjected China’s Catholics to the same authorities that oversee those demolitions. Presumably he hopes that Catholic churches get spared. If so, they’d effectively benefit from the government’s persecutions. (In fact, this will more likely permanently discredit the Catholic Church in China. But that’s not what he intends.)
We made a lot of fun here at The Stream of a group of disgruntled Catholic Millennials who called themselves “Tradinistas.” They called for open borders, global socialism, guaranteed wages for breathing and an official Catholic state. They cited papal documents condemning American “Liberalism.” Maybe they weren’t just grumpy graduate students. It seems they were on to something. They were channeling voices that are also coming from Rome. From a Vatican that seeks powerful allies against the “real” threat to peace and equality: “neoliberal dictorships” like the United States of America.
Leftist ideologues with whom Francis has staffed key Vatican posts see more common cause between their worldview and China’s. And Fidel Castro’s. And George Soros’. They keep saying so. It’s time we listened.
#3. The third article, written almost two weeks ago by Steve Mosher, President of the Population Research Institute, is quite critical of Archbishop Sanchez Sorondo, and of the Vatican’s apparent willingness to “make a deal” with the Chinese government. He praises the courage and fidelity of Cardinal Zen.
Papal Crony Praises Communist China, Denounces America (link)
By Steven Mosher
February 6, 2018
Recently back from his very first trip to China, Archbishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo is waxing ecstatic. “Those who best realize the social doctrine of the Church at this time are the Chinese.”
So Sorondo gushed to the Italian newspaper, La Stampa, on Friday. “They seek the common good, subordinating all things to the general good.”
That reminds me of Lincoln Steffens’ awestruck assessment of the Soviet Union. He said: “I’ve seen the future, and it works!”
China is morally superior because it pays lip service to Global Warming? Really?
As we all know, Stalin’s USSR turned out to be one of the great killing fields of the Twentieth Century. Mao’s China was another.
China: A New Paradise?
Sorondo serves as the Chancellor of the both the Pontifical Academy of Science and the Pontifical Academy of Social Science. He’s not a reporter.
“I found an extraordinary China,” he continued breathlessly. “You do not have shantytowns. You do not have drugs, young people do not have drugs. There is a positive national consciousness. They want to show that they have changed, they already accept private property.”
Archbishop Sorondo surely rode in a chauffeured limousine from the airport to his five-star hotel. He probably did not see any shantytowns. The route, after all, got carefully Potemkinized. Foreign visitors get a splendid first impression.
His government handlers didn’t hesitate to lie to him about politically sensitive topics. They may have assured him that China’s youth are drug-free. But the country’s National Narcotics Control Commission recently said otherwise: “China’s drug problem is severe and growing, with sharp rises in the abuse and production of synthetic drugs.”
China, for Sorondo, has “positive national consciousness.” It relentlessly “seeks the common good.” It’s also the main manufacturer of opioids such as fentanyl. Such drugs, illegally exported by China to the rest of the world, have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of young Americans, Canadians, and Filipinos.
How about China’s respect for “private property”? See the ongoing destruction of Catholic and other Christian churches in China. These churches stoof on “private” land. With the written permission of the Communist-dominated state. Which turned out to be worthless.
Chinese Communism Saving the Planet?
Sorondo’s most extravagant claim? That Beijing is “defending the dignity of the person.” How? By “following Laudato Si on the care of our common home [to limit CO2 emissions. . . China] is here assuming a moral leadership that others have abandoned.”
China is morally superior because it pays lip service to Global Warming? Really?
Is Beijing defending the “dignity of the human person” by forcibly aborting women who conceive children outside the Communist Party’s birth plan? Is the Party showing “moral leadership” by executing more people each year than the rest of the world combined?
Does Sorondo even know that China’s workers can’t organize free labor unions along the lines of Poland’s Solidarity? Or that workers who strike for higher wages — or for any wages at all — often face deadly force?
America: The Enemy
Of course, no interview with Archbishop Sorondo is complete without a little America-bashing. He said: “The economy [in China] does not dominate politics, as it does in the United States. How is it possible that the petroleum multinationals control Trump, when we know that this is bad for the earth.”
No, Your Excellency, the economy in China does not dominate politics. But that is only because China is a bureaucratic totalitarian state. The Chinese Communist Party — and its politics — dominate not just production, but reproduction as well.
Sorondo’s slur that the oil companies, or anyone else for that matter, control President Trump is simply laughable. If anyone is his own man, it is Donald Trump.
Some of this nonsense is pretty much what we have one to expect from an anti-American Argentinean socialist. Especially one who thinks that the government can — if only we allow it enough power — to solve all social problems.
An Embarrassment to the Church
Sorondo, despite being the head of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, is known for being a sloppy thinker.
Not long ago, for example, he claimed that the Pope’s specific views on global warming were just as authoritative as the Church’s condemnation of abortion. Father Joseph Fessio, SJ, who studied theology under Joseph Ratzinger commented. He called these comments “worse than wrong. They are an embarrassment to the Church.”
But Sorondo is probably just as much Chinese dupe as socialist fellow traveler.
It is an exhilarating experience to be flattered by a coterie of Chinese officials. They carefully gauge your political sympathies. They know how to appeal to them while flattering you. The treatment has made better men — Henry Kissinger, for example — lose their heads. So one might excuse Sorondo by saying that he is a victim of China’s exquisite skills in barbarian management.
The Royal Treatment
After you’ve been treated like visiting royalty, it seems churlish to remark on China’s continuing imprisonment of bishops or destruction of churches, even if they are your own bishops and your own churches.
I suspect that Sorondo was also, in his clumsy way, trying to blunt criticism of the forthcoming agreement between the Vatican and the Chinese Communist Party over the appointment of bishops.
If China is really, as he claims, doing such a remarkable job carrying out the “social doctrine of the Church,” then the implication is that we should just overlook its persecution of the Church itself.
We should overlook the findings of the U.S. State Department. Its most recent annual report on freedom of religion found the Chinese government “physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups for activities related to their religious beliefs and practices.”
We should put all that aside. Why? For the sake of an agreement which cedes control of both the Patriotic and Underground churches in China to the Chinese Communist Party.
Perhaps Sorondo and others in the Vatican seem deluded. Communist Party negotiators convinced them that if the Vatican orders the Underground Church out of the catacombs and allows Beijing to choose its bishops, that the CCP will reciprocate by allowing greater scope for religious freedom and practice. If so, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Bully of Asia
As I write in Bully Of Asia, the CCP still:
practices ‘brainwashing’ not merely on outspoken dissidents but on everyone. The point of the ‘self-criticism’ sessions that were a regular feature of life under chairman Mao — and that have been reinstituted under Party Supremo Xi Jinping — was to bring everyone’s thoughts into alignment with the Party’s. Even today, there is nothing akin to a Western ‘right of privacy’ or ‘right of conscience’ that would prevent the Party-State from imprinting its policies wholesale on the minds and bodies of its subjects. … Big Daddy Xi [as he is called in China] is ratcheting up controls over all kinds of ‘thought work’ and has made it clear that all Chinese media must serve the interests of the ruling Communist Party.
Of course, I’m an American. So Archbishop Sorondo would probably discount what I have to say. But I will say it nonetheless: Those of us who know Communist Chinese officials as the most duplicitous and masterful manipulators on the planet know that Chinese Party-State will violate any agreement that is signed before the ink is dry on the paper.
Giving the Communists Control
And whether Sorondo understands it or not — and I would guess he doesn’t have a clue — there’s only one reason why the Chinese Party-State wants an agreement with the Vatican at all. For control. It wants to control the appointment of bishops so that it can create a breakaway national church. It wants to controland limit the contact of that church with the outside world, and to put it on a path to gradual extinction.
Most of all, it wants to force the Underground Church out into the open. There its heroic bishops will give way to state lackeys. Its members more effectively watched. Its preaching stopped.
That the Vatican is contemplating cooperating with this scheme is mystifying. Why would any believing Catholic consent to hand over millions of believers in China to an officially atheistic Communist Party that is hostile to Catholicism, treats Catholics as second-class citizens, and will not even let them serve in the government or the military?
What You Must Do, Do Quickly
It is, as Cardinal Zen says, nothing less than a betrayal of faithful Catholics in China.
If Archbishop Sorondo and others in the Vatican ignore the true Church in China, if they’re determined to cave to the Chinese Communist Party, then they should simply shut up and do so.
Don’t insult our intelligence. Don’t claim that the Communist revolution has finally produced a society that has solved all of mankind’s social ills. Or that the Chinese Communist Party has done a better job implementing the social gospel than, say, the United States of America.
We’ve heard that claim before from political pilgrims to China going all the way back to Edgar Snow, who in Red Star Over China tried to convince us that Mao Zedong was building heaven on earth.
I will let you, dear reader, decide whether the Archbishop should be treated as a laughingstock or a liar, a dupe or a fellow traveler.
But, for whatever reason, he is propagating a myth as old as Marxism. And it is a myth that kills.
The fourth artice is by another friend, Francis X. Rocca, writing now for the Wall Stree tJournal arfte some years of writing for Catholic News Service. He affers a bit of historical perspective for this decision…
Pope’s Controversial China Overture Has Cold-War Precedent
Vatican’s new China policy recalls its ‘Ostpolitik’ toward Communist regimes in the 1960s and ’70s
Francis X. Rocca
Feb. 7, 2018 8:00 a.m. ET
ROME— Pope Francis’ overture to Communist China echoes the Vatican’s conciliatory approach to Soviet-bloc states during much of the Cold War, a policy some say diminished and others say preserved the Catholic Church there.
The pope’s plan to replace bishops loyal to Rome with excommunicated men chosen by Beijing, in hope of gaining China’s recognition of the pope as heading the country’s Catholic Church, has been widely described as a revival of Vatican Ostpolitik.
Defenders of that policy—whose name comes from West Germany’s campaign to normalize relations with Communist East Germany in the early 1970s—call it a realistic response that allowed the church to survive behind the Iron Curtain.
They say such an approach is even more appropriate today in China, a rising economic and geopolitical power where Catholics amount to less than 1% of the population.
Following World War II, Eastern Europe was forcibly absorbed into the Soviet sphere and Communism was growing even in Italy. In 1948, Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty of Hungary was arrested, leading to his subsequent torture, show trial and years of imprisonment.
In the context of such persecution, Pope Pius XII in 1949 excommunicated all Catholics who “profess, defend or promote materialistic Communist doctrine.” He later forcefully condemned the U.S.S.R.’s 1956 invasion of Hungary to suppress a democratizing revolution there.
The Vatican’s approach shifted under the next pope, St. John XXIII, who was alarmed by the superpower confrontation that led to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and sought to reduce tensions.
Under Pope John, who died in 1963, and especially under his successor, Pope Paul VI, the Vatican largely muted its anti-Communist rhetoric and made a series of compromises with Communist regimes. It allowed those governments in effect to veto bishop appointments and it let priests take part in Communist propaganda efforts.
In Czechoslovakia, the Vatican even forbade the clandestine ordination of priests in an “underground” church that operated outside the government-approved hierarchy.
At the time, Vatican diplomats justified these concessions as necessary for the church’s sheer survival, and some say history has vindicated them.
“Ostpolitik served to defend endangered religious communities, but it was also a diplomatic initiative for peace,” wrote Roberto Morozzo Della Rocca, who teaches history at Roma Tre University. “Ostpolitik did not aspire to a field victory but to the containment of evil, which, however, in a spiritual sense amounted to a victory.”
With the papal election of Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, who took the name Pope John Paul II, the Vatican’s approach to Communism took a dramatic turn.
The new pope repeatedly demanded respect for human rights and religious freedom in Soviet-bloc states, especially his native Poland, and gave crucial support to the Solidarity trade-union movement that spearheaded the political revolution there.
Meanwhile, the Vatican’s doctrinal chief, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger —the future Pope Benedict XVI —rejected Marxist influence on liberation theology, a movement especially influential in Latin America.
Despite Pope John Paul II’s decisive stand against Communism, some say the legacy of the church’s conciliatory policies limited its ability to take advantage of the religious freedom that came with the advent of democracy. They point to less than vibrant church life in the years before and after Communism’s fall in Hungary and what would become Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
A similar loss of vigor could befall the church in China, some warn, if it seems to abandon the millions of Catholics in the so-called underground church there, some of whom have suffered imprisonment and other punishment for their loyalty to Rome and defiance of Beijing. Such Catholics are believed to outnumber members of the government-backed, so-called patriotic church of China.
“Why should those Chinese interested in exploring the possibility of religious faith be interested in a Catholicism that had kowtowed to the Communist regime?” George Weigel, a biographer of Pope John Paul, wrote this week in the National Review. “Carrying the sulfurous odor of too much contact with the Devil’s legions does absolutely nothing to advance the evangelical mission of the Church.”
Pope Francis sees no alternative to compromise with a China whose might other world powers are also adjusting to, said a person familiar with the matter. The pope hopes to sign an agreement with the government on the appointment of future bishops, on terms that many Vatican officials consider far from ideal.
“No one says a word against Beijing. No one protests. Beijing buys everybody,” said the person, suggesting the church would find no support in a confrontation with China. “An agreement would not resolve the problems. There would still be new sufferings and difficulties. But at least it would be a foot in the door.”